But Federer’s self-belief is far from dented after the four-set defeat.
“I have self-confidence as well,” said the Swiss. “That doesn't fade away very quickly. I know it's not easy [facing Djokovic]. I never thought it was easy.
“It doesn't scare me when I go into a big match against any player who's in their prime right now. But of course you need to prove yourself. You need to have all that going. It's disappointing, but at the same time I'm going deep in slams right now. I'm having great runs. I thought I had a tough draw here, so I'm actually pleased where my level's at at the beginning of the season.”
Federer has been beaten by Djokovic in his past three Grand Slam outings, finishing runner-up to the Serb in the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. He was also defeated by Djokovic in the 2014 Wimbledon final. Indeed, if it weren’t for Djokovic dominating on the ATP World Tour in recent years, Federer could well have added to his Grand Slam haul of 17 trophies.
“Novak right now is a reference for everybody,” said Federer. “He's the only guy that has been able to stop me as of late, and Stan [Wawrinka] when he was on fire when he was in Paris. It's okay. I wish I could have played a bit better [tonight], and who knows what would have happened. Today Novak was very, very good. There's no doubt about it.”
The crowd on Rod Laver Arena were stunned into near-silence by Djokovic’s performance in the first two sets of his 45th meeting with Federer. In his finest performance of the tournament so far, the Serb was worlds away from his fourth-round battle with Gilles Simon, in which he made 100 unforced errors. For the first two sets against Federer, Djokovic committed just six unforced errors and gave the Swiss no break point opportunities.
Once the Serb had the first set, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Federer, who had only once before in 22 wins against Djokovic come from a set down.
“I know how important the first set is against Novak, especially at this time right now when he's World No. 1. When he gets on a roll, it's tough to stop. He's always played very well throughout his career with the lead. Even more so now when his confidence is up.
“Of course I wanted to do well. Of course I had a game plan. Of course I had ideas what I should do. I couldn't quite get it done. Maybe parts of my game, maybe parts of his game just matched up in a tough way and the first set ran away very quickly.”
What Federer can credit himself with is managing to halt Djokovic’s momentum - when he was barely missing a ball - and clawing his way back into the match, much to the delight of the crowd.
“I've seen Novak play this well before,” said Federer. “It's tough when it's from the start because obviously you’ve got to try to stop the bleeding at some point. He returns very well, like Andre Agassi. He can get one or two sets all of a sudden. Those sets run away very quickly.
“Before you can really do something, a lot of tennis is being played and it's tough to get back into it. I found a way. Started to play better myself. Made a bit of a match out of it, which was nice.”
Once again Federer fans are left looking at the bright side, Federer at 34 is still making the second week of a Grand Slam.
Yes he may have gotten out played, but he's still the only player (aside from maybe Wawrinka) who's still consistently competing with Djokovic at his level.
I'm not going to wax poetic about Novak Djokovic, because the media is doing that ad nauseam lately (as with Serena Williams).
And please stop saying that Novak is ahead in their rivalry. He's one match ahead. I'm sure Mr. Federer will beat him in best of three throughout the rest of this year.
I skipped watching the match to spare myself a lot of frazzled nerves (and the fact the match was on at 3:30 am).
Despite this loss, the year has just began. This was only the first Grand Slam.
Something tells me there'll be a few more if Mr. Federer has anything to say about it.
Onward to the next tournament!.